One potential casualty of the escalating US-China trade war is a nascent digital health market as start-ups from the US and elsewhere explore how they can develop a viable commercial model to tap a vast and tech-savvy market.

“In China, digital technology will play a massive role in patient outcomes and health care costs,” Celina Chew, president/Greater China, Bayer, told the South China Morning Post.

Before that happens, however, overseas entrants will have to find the right partners and fully understand the nuances of the local health market.

“For example, while 24-hour blood glucose monitoring devices are worn all the time in markets with better insurance coverage, in China, they are often bought just twice or three times a year at times of changes in seasons, diet and living environment,” explained Shi Lei, vice-president at Eight Roads Ventures, an investment unit of Fidelity International.

“This is because they are often self-paid, and more likely bought through an online channel,” he said.

But Business Insider also noted that China is far ahead of many other countries when it comes to “smart bracelets” – 36% of Chinese consumers own one compared to 16% globally – which could make things easier for digital health businesses seeking to enter the market.

With an ageing population and a doctor-patient ratio that lags behind other countries, there is huge potential for a business that can find the right “commercialisation pathway”: the Post singled out a Boston-based start-up as one possible candidate.

Biofourmis, which is aiming to become the first heart failure digital therapeutics to get US FDA approval for marketing as a “digital pill” that is prescribed together with heart failure therapies, has linked up with Jianke, an online healthcare platform that already has partnerships with hospital chains and pharma giants.

Founder and chief executive Kuldeep Rajput told the Post he was aiming for more such partnerships in order to acquire customers – he hoped that around 5% of China’s ten million chronic heart failure patients will be using Biofourmis’ monitoring platform in the next 24 months – but he acknowledged that pricing remains a challenge.

And depending on how the trade war plays out, pricing might not be the only one.

Sourced from South China Morning Post, Business Insider; additional content by WARC staff